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Ford switches on the auto Co-pilot

With the lot: Pizza company Domino’s is using self-driving Ford Fusion test cars in a trial of Ford autonomous technology in Miami.

Autonomous tech named Co-pilot360 at Ford as testing hits the Miami streets

1 Mar 2018

FORD’S autonomous driving technology – now being tested by delivering pizzas through the crowded streets of Miami in the United States – appears to have a name: Co-pilot360.

A global trademark application has gone out from Ford Motor Company in Detroit to cover the name which the company describes in its application as software and hardware for autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles.

The application also covers online services to provide data for ride sharing and car sharing – a key plank in Ford’s plans for spreading its planned autonomous vehicles to the masses from 2021 when FoMoCo’s first ground-up self-driving vehicle is set for launch.

Ford’s Co-pilot360 joins a growing list of snappy names for autonomous systems, including Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

According to trademark support documents, Ford’s system apparently will be able to re-route vehicles around highly polluted areas by downloading data from pollution monitoring services, as well divert to avoid bad weather, direct cars to parking places and find prompt medical services for ill car occupants.

It will even cover the well-being of the vehicle, handling battery management of electric vehicles, anti-theft systems and safety systems such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

Ford this week launched pilot autonomous vehicle program with pizza company Domino’s in Miami using self-driving Ford Fusions, and will follow up with more vehicles in March in league with food delivery service Postmate – the American equivalent of Deliveroo.

The vehicles were developed in partnership with technology supplier Argo AI which has been running a fleet of research cars in Miami to map roads and record local laws and traffic patterns through the city that has been rated as the 10th most congested in the world.

While the test vehicles will be autonomous and capable of navigating their own way through traffic to make a pizza delivery, they will be manned by an operator who can take over in case of a problem, not to mention hand over the pizza.

Ford’s vice-president for autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles Sherif Marakby said the pilot scheme would be expanded throughout the year, with more vehicles and a wider test area.

He said the company was also planning its first autonomous vehicle operations terminal in Miami, close to the downtown area of operation, to service and house the cars.

“Before thousands of self-driving vehicles can hit the streets, we have to be prepared to manage large, high-tech fleets efficiently, and the steps we’re taking in Miami represent a significant stride in that process,” he said.

Mr Marakby said Ford was bringing its various development tracks in unison to “determine what works well and improve what doesn’t”.

In time, the program will be rolled out to other cities and expanded to include vans and SUVs, he said.

The Miami test program is being done with the approval of the Miami-Dade County which advocates new transport solutions to solve its traffic woes.

Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development’s engineers in Australia will have a hand in applying such advanced technologies to its future models. Test facilities for driverless cars are prepped and ready at the You Yangs proving ground in Victoria.

While many motor companies are planning to jump straight to all-electric vehicles when they make the move to full autonomous vehicles, Ford has indicated its first driverless model will be a form of hybrid, with a petrol/electric powertrain.

Ford global markets president Jim Farley has described the vehicle as “mixed use”, meaning it will be able to carry people or goods.

Unlike some motor companies that are forming their own ride-sharing and car-sharing operations, Ford plans a co-operative approach with a variety of existing services, such as Lyft.

Under this model, Ford will supply autonomous vehicles and take a share of revenue per kilometre paid by customers, along with a slice of e-commerce and advertising services inside the vehicle.

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